It was raining and we sat in the coffee shop. She’s an older mum and I don’t take her wisdom for granted. She shared how at the age of twenty, she decided that no matter what, her relationship with her husband and children was going to be one of her biggest priorities. She, who came out of a broken home where relationships laid scattered on the floor, decided to intentionally change it all. Now, after nearly twenty years, she celebrates the fruits of that decision.
And it struck me yet again. Be intentional. No matter how hard it gets and how much effort it takes. Never give up. Try hard. Push through. Connect and reconnect. So, I thought about ways to do this in our home, on a daily basis.
There is nothing quite like physical play, having fun and laughter when it comes to building connections and strenthening relationships. When we do these things, feel-good hormones (oxytocin and opioids) are released and it reduces stress and anxiety levels.
With that in mind, here is my challenge for this week: Try some of these games at home, everyday for the next seven days, and see what happens. (I bet you that the mood in your house will lift, you’ll connect deeply and it will strengthen your relationship with your kids. Let’s see if I’m right.)
- Cuddle: Cuddle up, tell or read a story or sing a favourite song.
- Hug: Give pillow hugs by placing a pillow between you and your child and then hug as hard as you can.
- Massage: Deep pressure touch releases feel-good hormones. Massage your child, rub cream on her arms, legs and back or dry her firmly with a towel after a bath.
- Play hide-and-seek: Throw a scarf of blanket over your face, hide behind furniture and play peek-a-boo with your baby and young toddler. Hide-and-seek games have no age limits and the build-up and anticipation creates lots of excitement and joy.
- Sausage roll game: Let your child lie on top of a blanket or duvet and roll him up tightly (like a sausage). Pretend to eat him.
- Face-to-face games: Play games with lots of face-to-face interactions. Put stickers on each other’s noses, cheeks and foreheads. Pull funny faces at each other. Play a staring game and see who laughs first.
- Playful “eating” game: Pretend to eat your child’s feet, hands, neck, knees and elbows saying something like “Oh what lovely feet. I’m so hungry. I think I will have to eat them!” Make lots of sounds and use animated facial expressions while you pretend to do this game.
- Swinging, hanging and throwing. Throw your child up in the air, hang them upside down and swing him around. Stay within the threshold of your child – if he enjoys this type of movement and ask for more, give him more but make sure that you don’t overdo it. If, on the other hand, your child finds this type of movement too much, then take it slow. With these type of playing, your child is always, always, always the boss, especially when it comes to asking you to stop. Make sure to stop, when he says stop.
- The squash-machine game: Hold your child close to your body and roll over, taking care not to squash your child! Use a ball and roll over your child’s body pretending that it is the steamroller that is rolling him flat. Again remember to stay within the limits of your child.
- Connect with words: Shower your child with comforting words, loving smiles and laughter. Focus on the positive attributes in your child and pointing these out. Be real, be specific and do this often.
- “You are good at drawing.”
- “You are really trying hard.”
- “You are so helpful.”
- “You are a good friend because you share your toys.”
- “You are kind.”
- “You are great at solving problems.”
- “You are great at finding ways of doing tricky things.”
- “You are loved.”
- “You can do it!”
- “You are brave.”
- “You are special.”
- “I believe in you.”
- “I will always be here for you.”
- “I am proud of you.”
- “I love you.”
Question: So, what do you think? Did the mood in your house lift? Did you feel that connection between you and your kids strengthen? And which of these did you and your children enjoy the most?